Zelensky’s Aria in Poroshenko’s Voice

A draft law submitted by President Zelensky on amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada. According to the Office of the President, this is the “decentralisation” provided for in the Minsk Agreements.

The crowd of well-wishers, traditionally believing the Ukrainian authorities at their word, has already started to talk about a “great breakthrough”, already achieved in Paris, at a meeting in the “Normandy format”. They say that Zelensky is already making changes to the Constitution and implements the Minsk Agreements ahead of schedule. They again, by the way, remembered about “Avakov cleaning up the Nazis” (well, i.e., himself).

In general, if we assess the situation from the position of people who claim “I still believe that Zelensky wants good”, in Ukraine there is complete denationalisation, demilitarisation, the and restoration of statehood under the sensitive leadership of a comedian who demonstrates the features of an extraordinary politician. It’s just not clear why the group of former high-ranking regionals who became Facebook stars [those like Elena Lukash – ed], contracted by Kolomoisky to work as Poroshenko’s detractors, is silent about these achievements. Perhaps because Kolomoisky has made a tactical alliance with Avakov and somehow it’s not comme il faut to speak about cleaning up the Nazis and about peace in Donbass if the main partner of your employer is a Nazi (even an uber-Nazi) and a leader of the party of war.

If you look closely at Zelensky’s latest initiatives, we will once again see the same Petro Poroshenko, only smaller and in a well-ironed suit. If a suit’s degree of “creasedness” determines who is a war criminal, corrupt, and should be in prison, and who is a sweet furry animal and the “hope of the nation”, then it’s already too late to feel pity for such a nation and such a state.

By and large, Zelensky, with his changes to the Constitution, is trying to repeat the trick of Poroshenko, who was also pursuing “reform” on decentralisation. In that long ago forgotten 2015, the well-wishers were also delighted with Poroshenko’s “courage”, who was “fulfilling Minsk ahead of schedule”, and refused to believe that the “reform” was ultimately aimed exclusively at strengthening, because it declaratively transfers some powers (mainly related to the existence and way of life of the population), but leaves in the hands of the center the resources necessary for the implementation of these powers. Accordingly, the regions in which the sphere of responsibility increased, but funding did not appear for it, lined up to the center, for money, and Poroshenko received an additional lever of indirect influence on the regional bureaucracy, for “it gave, and it did not give”.

Now there is the similar cosmetic reform of Zelensky, consisting mainly of changing names (instead of districts there are neighbourhoods, and prefects instead of state administrations), reducing the term of office of local deputies to four years, making a number of technical changes, in fact strengthening or, at least, retaining the powers of the center. The prefect, like the previous head of the district administration, on the proposal of the Cabinet of Ministers, will be appointed by the President of Ukraine. Previously the Cabinet of Ministers used to agree on the applicants introduced by the regions, and the president appointed them.

Naturally, there is no word in this “reform” about the special status of Donbass, which has already attracted criticism from the DPR/LPR. In addition, the amendments to the Constitution were not agreed with the republics, as is provided for in the Minsk Agreements.

In fact, we have Zelensky’s desire to kill not even two, but three birds with one stone:

1. To record in the Constitution the strengthening of the control of the centre over the regions.

2. Create conditions for a reset of the local authorities. This task (re-election of local authorities) was set by Zelensky immediately after his election to the presidency, along with an early parliamentary election. But the current legislation does not allow the central government to dissolve all local councils once and without good reason. Now, in connection with the changes in the Constitution that stipulate changes to names and the term of office for local authorities, re-elections will have to be held.

3. To be able to tell the West that Ukraine is implementing Minsk – changes to the Constitution have even already been made, and to demand concessions from Russia, in particular, the transfer of control over the border to Kiev before the elections.

Hardly anyone in Ukraine, except the most naive citizens, really expects that the West will believe Ukrainian fairy tales about the implementation of Minsk. The maximum that Kiev expects is that Berlin or Paris, if they again wants to play confrontation with Moscow, will accept the argument it has given. However, such a development is unlikely. In fact, Kiev seeks to simply continue the game of blocking the execution of Minsk. Zelensky, exactly as Poroshenko did, “plays stupid”, showing everyone a bill with the right name, but a perverse essence, and pretending that he does not understand what else is wanted from him.

As for the reset of local power, at the rate at which the presidential approval rating is dissolving, and with the level of self-discreditation already achieved by “Servants of the People“, it is not yet known whether this idea will benefit Zelensky. It may happen that the brand “For Zelensky! For the servants of the people!”, which brought to Parliament a huge number of “homeless, unemployed, passportless” scammers simply because the people believed their clown, will now prove to be a black mark. In the end, a minimum of two to three months must pass until changes are made, until elections are called, and until they are held. And this is the spring, and in winter the population expects a double increase in gas prices (and along with it the cost of housing).

So it is possible that by March the grateful people will write on walls: “Petro, I am sorry! Petro, come back!” After all, Kuchma and Yanukovych, against who the Maidans (the latter was nearly torn into pieces), remain in the memory of the people as the best presidents of Ukraine.

In the end, Zelensky is pursuing exactly the policy that the people hated Poroshenko for. It’s just that the standard of living under Zelensky falls faster, the robbery of the country by “Servants of the People” is more brazen, and the international isolation of Ukraine is stronger. In addition, Zelensky (or rather Kolomoisky) is friends with Avakov, who Poroshenko was hostile towards. I would not be surprised if during the next “constitutional reform” in the Basic Law of Ukraine there will be an article according to which the Minister of Internal Affairs can only be Avakov. This would be logical and even somewhat stabilise the domestic political situation, finally proving to everyone who hopes for something that there is nothing to expect in this country.

However, there is also a benefit from the “constitutional reform” under Zelensky’s name. Kiev has once again demonstrated its non-negotiability. The most ardent supporters of a reset of relations with Ukraine should understand that the presidents are changing, but the essence of Kiev’s policies is unchanged, and that the problem is not in the characters, but in the system. And Donbass was given the opportunity to take another small step towards final liberation from Ukraine. After all, if there is no Minsk, there is no reintegration, and Kiev more than convincingly buries the Minsk Agreements.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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